10 Sources of Legal Research Inefficiency

/ / Legal Research, Ravel Academics

LegalTechAudit.com recently found that lawyers at 0 out of 9 law firms could pass basic Microsoft Office and Adobe PDF tests. It’s easy to see the direct correlation between loss of efficiency and inability to properly use these basic, standard tools. The interesting nuance is, compared to everyday legal research tools, Microsoft Office and Adobe PDF are incredibly simple. All lawyers recognize that legal research is time-consuming and often frustrating and inefficient. Take a look at our top 10 sources of legal research inefficiency and see how well they resonate with you.

  • Not knowing where to start

“I know there is a case out there that says exactly XYZ, go find it,” says the partner to the associate. What? How? Here goes nothing….

  • Not knowing when to stop

After reading through the top 40 cases in a results list, are you done? When have you found enough to stop searching and start drafting?

  • Failure to ask the right questions

Some associates are very comfortable asking partners follow-up questions…but many aren’t. Failure to ask the right questions can cause an associate to spin his or her wheels for hours before getting any traction.

“The worst thing is for subordinates to labor in ignorance in order to conceal their confusion and wind up doing the wrong thing.” – Colin Powell

  • Unfamiliarity with area of law

The first project on a topic is always tougher than the fifth. A lot of time goes into getting up to speed on the topic. How do we flatten the learning curve to decrease early legal research inefficiency?

  • Tunnel vision

Law librarians often point out that associates sometimes narrow their searches when they should be broadening them. By excluding relevant cases at the outset, it’s next to impossible to find the right answer.

  • Paradox of choice

Broad searches carry big time risks. When there are too many options to choose from, the right cases are not clear and it takes a long time to sift through the noise and locate relevant case law.

  • Multiple windows

Having 20 research windows open results in hours of trying to go back, reset, and digest what has been read.

  • Bad queries

A carefully crafted query is critical to getting off on the right foot. But getting to the right query isn’t as simple as piling on a dozen Boolean terms–skilled researchers know that you should search widely first to make sure you’re not excluding important cases at the outset, and then focus the search.

  • “Gaming” research tools

Adjusting research behavior due to the billing practice of software providers results in a nightmarish workflow for junior attorneys. You know the deal…running an overly broad search and doing countless searches-within-a-search so you only get billed once.

  • Insufficient resources

Firms that are more concerned with hitting year-old budget goals than with providing associates with great research tools are missing the opportunity that forward thinking, innovative firms are taking advantage of at this very moment. Cutting edge tools that make use of innovative technology help associates surface insights more quickly with less effort. The negative impact of legal research inefficiency outweighs the cost of the new tools.

Where should we go from here?

Check out Ravel! We were founded by lawyers that were frustrated with all of the above issues and created a product to solve these pain points. Ravel has developed an analytics tools to help make sense of legal data, and the most innovative firms are catching on quickly. Take a look.

TOP